EEC 2019

A power plant in Zabrze, Upper Silesia, late 19th century

In 1918 Poland, which was in the state of revival, did not have to build its power industry from the ground up - there were already seeds of the power industry on the lands of partitioned Poland. But in 1918, the total capacity of energy sources in Poland was smaller than the capacity of one modern power plant...

  • The beginning of power industry in the regions that currently form part of Poland dates back to 1878. At that time, the first electric arc lamp was installed in Chorzow, the then Krolewska Huta.
  • In 1939, there were 198 energy companies in Poland with installed capacity above 1 MW (their total capacity - 1664 MW). There were 834 smaller electricity generators - they had a total installed capacity of 155 MW.
  • At the end of 2017, the total installed capacity in the Polish power industry was 43 421 MW.

The beginning of power industry in the regions that currently form part of Poland dates back to 1878. At that time, the first electric arc lamp was installed in Chorzow, the then Krolewska Huta.

In the following year, electric lighting appeared in metal plants of Bernard Hantke in Warsaw; in 1880, electric lighting appeared in a textile factory in Zawiercie.

The year 1889 was a real breakthrough, when the first public utility power plant was launched in the present land of Poland, in Szczecin. The construction of the second power plant in the same city was completed in 1892. In 1891, a municipal power plant in Wroclaw was put into operation.

A power plant built in Zabrze 120 years ago. Many of its buildings remain there to this day.

Different partitions - different development

The development of electrification of cities before the First World War was shaped in various ways.

"The situation was relatively good in the Prussian Partition. In Poznan, the first local DC power plants supplying the areas of Jezyce, sw. Lazarz and Wilda and one power plant in the downtown area were built in the years 1895-98. The network has a 2 X 110 V terminal voltage until 1910, when it is modernized into 2 X 220 V" - said Czeslaw Mejro in the quarterly "Historia Nauki i Techniki".

At approximately the same time, power plants and networks were built in Grudziadz (1895), Bydgoszcz (1896), Chorzow (1898), Tczew (1899), Torun (1898), Grodzisk Wielopolski (1898), Gniezno (1901), Gdansk (1896) and Wroclaw (1893).

The first municipal power plants in the Austrian Partition are also built at roughly the same time: the first one - in 1893 in Bielsko-Biala; 1894 is the opening of a tram power plant in Lvov. Power plants also grew in Krakow (1894), Lvov (1893) and Nowy Targ (1898).

Czeslaw Mejro noted that the lack of interest in Poland's economic development from the Tsarist Russia also reflected on the electrification of the cities located in the Russian partition. The first industrial power plants in sugar factories and textile industry were built relatively early, but the supply of cities in the Russian partition began in the early twentieth century...

In 1898, the Warsaw electrification project was completed - the work of engineer William Henry Lindley. Warsaw could be proud of a municipal power plant built in 1903, and a tram power plant - in 1908. Radom had a power plant built in 1901, Czestochowa — in 1907, Bialystok — in 1910, Kielce — in 1913, Plock — in 1908, and Wloclawek — in 1909. Despite such a significant delay, all these power plants, except for the Warsaw one, decided to use a DC network.

A power plant in Powisle-district of Warsaw, late 19th century.

Three in one

After Poland regained its independence in 1918, the power industry, as well as many other sectors, was in a need to harmonize the law and regulations previously in force in three countries.

In 1920 in Poland - without Upper Silesia - there were 81 public utility power plants, three companies distributing electricity and three associations with the character of capital companies with foreign capital.

In January 1920, the State Electrotechnical Council was established at the Ministry of Industry and Trade, which elected a committee responsible for the preparation of a draft bill on the generation, processing and distribution of electricity (this law was adopted by the Polish parliament on 21 March 1922).

The act, but also huge demands, contributed to the development of the energy sector. At the end of 1938, there were about 3.2 thousand power plants with a total capacity of approx. 1.2 thousand MW in Poland.

At that time, the biggest professional plants were the Laziska Power Plant with a capacity of 105 MW, the Lodz Power Plant (101 MW) and the Powisle Power Plant in Warsaw (83 MW).

It is important to note that there was no Poland-wide electricity network. Only a few fragments of the 150 kV line from the hydroelectric power plant in Roznow to Warsaw were built - with a branch in Stalowa Wola and Ostrowiec Swietokrzyski.

Shortly before the outbreak of World War II, in June 1939 there were 198 energy companies with installed capacity of above 1 MW in Poland; their total capacity was 1664 MW. There were 834 smaller generators and their total installed capacity was 155 MW.

Net electricity production in 1938 reached approx. 3.7 TWh. In 1937, there were almost 5.8 thousand km of 15 kV, 30 kV or 35 kV lines in district distribution networks and 550 km of 40 kV and 60 kV transmission lines. The length of 150 kV transmission lines was 378 km.

At the end of 1938, only 1263 villages in Poland were electrified (3% of the total number). The situation was even worse in case of rural households, only 2 percent of which were electrified...

A group of children listening to radio in a postwar Poland.

New borders, old challenges

The main task of the authorities after World War II was, of course, to rebuild Poland after a damaging war, and one of the most important elements of its reconstruction - the development of power industry.

In 1946, 361 power plants with an installed capacity of 2 553 MW and an annual production of 5.8 TWh were in operation. This meant that the pre-war level was exceeded. It is worth noting the shift of Poland's borders to the west: poor, rural areas in the east were within the borders of the USSR, and PRL gained industrialized areas on the so-called recovered territories. If one looked at it only from an economic point of view, this "shift" was beneficial for Poland.

After the World War II, Poland took over 1680 electrified villages on the so-called recovered territories. In 1945, 3512 villages were electrified, which was less than 10 percent of villages in Poland. In 1945-49, 11.456 villages were electrified (about 27 percent of villages in Poland).

The communism - the soviet authority plus electrification. A propaganda poster from the 1950s.

Rural electrification

On 4 July 1947, the Polish Parliament adopted the act on the planned energy economy. Authorities had previously appointed the Central Energy Board (CZE), coordinating and directing the work of district energy unions, which were spontaneously formed earlier, without a legal basis (the pre-war model).

A definite priority was given to the industry and its needs. The act on the general electrification of villages and residential areas adopted by the Polish parliament on 28 June 1950 ensured a rapid and fairly steady development of the electrification. Back in 1967, approximately 740 thousand households, mainly in central and south-eastern provinces, had to live without electricity.

At the same time, the industry producing devices for the energy sector was developing strongly. During the existence of Polish People's Republic, the following companies were producing generators: Rafako in Raciborz, Sefako in Sedziszow and Fakop in Sosnowiec, in Elblag - a manufacturer of Zamech turbines and Dolmel in Wroclaw. A company from Lodz - Elta - produced transformers. These are only a few examples from many companies in this industry.

It is difficult to compare the modern power industry with these pioneering stages developing after both world wars. At the end of 2017, the total installed capacity in the Polish power industry was 43 421 MW...

Now, take a look at present challenges:

Gas and wind is the future. Report on the Polish power industry
An unimaginable change is coming to the energy sector

The material was printed from © Polskie Towarzystwo Wspierania Przedsiębiorczości (Polish Entrepreneurship Support Association) 1997-2018

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